Crescent Beach (Siesta Key, just south of downtown) has been named as one of the top white sand beaches in the world based upon that amount of quartz crystal content (like 98% which means the sand never gets hot during the middle of a 100 degree July day).
There are a million dinning areas depening on what your looking for. Phillipi Creek is one of my favorites. Its just outside or Siesta Key on route 41 - tamiami trail. Kind of a "homey-down to earth" kind of place w/ paper towels as napkins. Great stuffed flounder and clam chowder. Siesta Key itself has several good stops.
Broken Egg is in the village for breakfast (its the place that Dick Vitale always pimps during broadcast, and yes he is there as often as he says he is.) Lobster Pot, also in the village is nice. A couple of fun bars are around that area as well if you're looking for some night life.
St Armands circle near downtown sarasota has several good restaurants. Patrick's is a nice sportsbar. If you're there over St. Paddy's day, I imagine they'll have some activities going on.
Then there is also the slew of national restuarants as well as places that started out local to the tampa-sarasota market and evenutually made their way north (Bone Fish grille, Hooters & First Watch).
Ringling Brothers meusem is near the airport if you have small kids, or Jungle Gardens. I haven't been to either in years, so I don't know if they're worth it or not. Busch Gardens is just up the road. Golf is abundant. I can't really help you w/ tourist attractions as most of what I've done is sit on the beach, and go out to eat while down there. You can always rent a boat and cruise the intercoastal waterways. Or go deep sea fishing.
I hope some of that helps. Enjoy your trip.